Reading Lions Supports Disability Awareness sessions in Schools

Huge thanks to Reading Lions for a donation towards our Disability Awareness work. If you are a Reading school, primary or secondary, please get in touch and book a free session for 2019.

Disability awareness is a neglected issue which receives little priority and few resources. However failure to invest in this area has multiple impacts on the rights of people with disabilities. In April 2017 the UN Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities published its ‘list of issues’ for the UK and has asked the UK government to report on multiple issues of concern, including how it is addressing disability-related harassment and bullying of disabled children in schools and how the UK is tackling negative attitudes, in particular towards people with dementia or learning disabilities.

Winter Ball 2018 was our best ever!

Stepping Forward once again coordinated the annual Winter Ball at The Hilton on Saturday 10 November 2018 and beat the event’s fundraising record! This year this unique fundraising and networking ball for organisations working on disability issues in Reading involved a total of seven local charities: Autism Berkshire, Reading Mencap, Parenting Special Children, Green Health Thames Valley, The Engine Shed and the Berkshire MS Therapy Centre and Stepping Forward – and raised over £14,000 for the sector. We welcomed 276 guests, all of whom had bought tickets direct from the local charity that they chose to support.

Guests enjoyed a welcome glass of bubbly, three course meal and entertainment provided by covers band Love2Groove.  An auction on the night raised further funds, alongside a raffle with £1,000 of John Lewis vouchers as the main prize.

The Winter Ball event came about because individually most local disability charities do not have the capacity to put on a large scale event such as a Ball. By coming together, with the generous support this year of the companies and Foundations listed below, we are able to hold an enjoyable event that raises substantial funds for organisations that are experiencing a severe shortage of resources.

The winning raffle tickets were: Numbers 6413, 9499 and 9409.

Creating a Disability Hub

In response to the current climate of decreasing resources and low public understanding of disability issues, we would like to create a Disability Hub for use by organisations and individuals affected by disability in the area.

The disability hub will be accessible to all local groups working on disability. It will contain a meeting room, two/three small offices and a space for hot-desking along with disabled toilet facilities.  It will be a multi-purpose office space providing a range of high quality and cost-effective services to the local community, with the potential to develop new services in response to changing community needs. Services will include our ongoing Disability Advice & Support Service. 

We have identified a well-located and very reasonably-priced property in Reading and the seller has generously said that they will give us 15 months to find the purchase price of £137,500. This comes with a 966 year lease.

This investment is a strategic and valuable one for the sector at a time when land and property in Reading is rapidly being sold for commercial purposes and the smallest offices are being rented out for £12,000 annually. It would be immensely valuable for charities and voluntary organisations in Reading to have this property for free/low cost office and meeting rooms; it is located on a bus route but also has allocated parking spaces, and is a 15-20 minute walk from the town centre.

You can view our fundraising page on The Good Exchange

https://app.thegoodexchange.com/project/12436/stepping-forward/creating-a-disability-hub

 

Disability Advice & Support Service

We are delighted to announce that Stepping Forward has secured a grant from Awards for All to directly support Berkshire families to access essential resources and support for their disabled children. We will run one-to-one Advice Clinics  – initially at special schools – where we will identify support for the resource needs that will enable disabled children and young people to live as full a life as possible. This will include making applications with families to a range of trusts and foundations for support for specific areas of need, including wheelchairs, specialist equipment. We know that the right support at the right time can help children and families enormously – whether it be to access clubs, to increase mobility, to purchase essential equipment or to secure respite breaks.  Contact us at info@stepping-forward.org.uk if you would like to know more.

Disability Confident Training with Disability Rights UK, Wednesday 18 July, Reading

It is not long now until our Disability Confident training workshop with Disability Rights UK! The training will take place on Wednesday 18 July from 10am to 4pm at RISC, London St, Reading. The course is run by a trainer with lived experience of disability and many years experience of delivering training courses. It is targeted at anyone wanting to increase their awareness of disability issues or gain more confidence working with and supporting disabled colleagues or customers.

Course objectives
By the end of the course, participants will be able to:

  • Identify the difference between the medical and social models of disability
  • Approach and assist disabled customers or clients with confidence
  • Identify potential barriers disabled people face and potential solutions
  • Understand disability legislation, including the Equality Act, to a basic level

Course content

  • the definition of disability and the different models
  • disability myths and misconceptions
  • why disability matters
  • making things fair: what the law says
  • better communications
  • the importance of language and avoiding assumptions
  • sharing stories

Cost: £30 for voluntary sector organisations/£50 for businesses/LAs

This is a subsidised course made possible with a grant from People’s Postcode Lottery; the course is normally held in London for a cost of £110 plus VAT. We are pleased to be able to offer this at a greatly reduced rate for local organisations.

Please email us at info@stepping-forward.org.uk if you would like to register for the training course. Invoices will be sent out upon registration.

Support Autism Awareness in Sierra Leone this April

We are raising funds to promote awareness about autism in Sierra Leone this April and to encourage families to come forward for support and advice.  We know from feedback and stories from parents and carers (eg Sierra Express Media, 2014; Pan-African Experiences of Autism Conference, Dec 2017; Browne-Penn School October 2017) that parents can be put under family and community pressure to stop feeding their children, or to hide them away and to pursue harmful alternative ‘treatments’ that can be abusive and life-threatening. The Sierra Leone Autistic Society recently held a community awareness session in a rural area and were told by a mother that they were ‘too late’ as she had returned her autistic child ‘to the bush’ the previous week (ie she had abandoned her child in the forest areas).  SLAS research in the community indicates that autistic children in the Sierra Leone context are at extreme risk of witchcraft accusations and subsequent harmful treatment.

All research elsewhere shows that awareness-raising at both the macro and micro level increases understanding and improves lives.  Funds will pay for the following:

  • Airtime on the radio for the specially recorded song ‘Kick Stigma Out of Autism’;
  • Production of banners and leaflets to promote awareness and to share SLAS contact details;
  •  Football matches across the country, in all districts, to bring communities together and to talk with them about autism.  Funds will pay for PA system, refreshments and autism-themed T-shirts for the teams;
  • School assemblies, to be delivered by a local network of volunteers and partner organisations. Transportation and  refreshments for volunteers is required for this work to take place.

We expect there to be in excess of 70,000 autistic people in Sierra Leone. Everyone will know someone with autism in their community.  Please consider supporting these awareness-raising activities and enable autistic people to live lives free of stigma and violence and in which the right to a family, a community and to education are secured.

Click the link below to make a donation which will go directly to the Sierra Leone Autistic Society:

https://www.crowdfunder.co.uk/promoting-autism-awareness-in-sierra-leone

Stepping Forward Working with Disability Rights UK on Disability Confident Course

Stepping Forward is delighted to announce its first training workshop with Disability Rights UK to take place on Wednesday 18 July in Reading. The Disability Confident Course is run by a trainer with lived experience of disability and many years experience of delivering training courses.

The one day course is targeted at anyone wanting to increase their awareness of disability issues or gain more confidence working with and supporting disabled colleagues or customers.

Course objectives
By the end of our course, participants will be able to:

·         Identify the difference between the medical and social models of disability

·         Approach and assist disabled customers or clients with confidence

·         Identify potential barriers disabled people face and potential solutions

·         Understand disability legislation, including the Equality Act, to a basic level

Course content

·         the definition of disability and the different models

·         disability myths and misconceptions

·         why disability matters

·         making things fair: what the law says

·         better communications

·         the importance of language and avoiding assumptions

·         sharing stories

Cost:

£30 for voluntary sector organisations

£50 for businesses

Please email us at info@stepping-forward.org.uk if you would like to register for the training course. Invoices will be sent out upon registration.

Autism Conference in Sierra Leone Generates Calls for Action

The Pan-African Experiences of Autism Conference took place at The British Council in Freetown on 4 & 5 December 2017 and was extremely well attended, with participation from parents, carers, teachers, NGOs, health workers and Ministry officials. The event marked the International Day of Persons With Disabilities and we are very grateful for the support of The British Council for the venue and for sponsoring guest speakers from Nigeria and Zimbabwe.

Feedback has been very positive and we are now working on the report, including the ‘Next Steps’ calls for action and priorities for implementation. We will make this available as soon as possible so that everyone involved can build on the outcomes of the event.  A WhatsApp group has already been created ‘Autism Tok Salone’ which will keep the discussions and planning going.

IMG_2971

Dr Bakare from Nigeria reviews current autism research and practice in Africa.

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Dr Virginia George, a parent/carer, talks about her experiences of bringing up her 19 year old daughter.

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Rugiatu Koroma, Human Rights Advocate and former Deputy Minister of Social Welfare, calls for support for community awareness-raising so that parents may be supported to make positive decisions on behalf of their children with disabilities.

Umu Bentil

Umu Bentil, above, a parent/carer shares her experiences of prioritising her autistic daughter’s needs against the wishes of her family – and the estrangement from her mother and husband that resulted. ‘Hold your child close and don’t let anyone tell you that your child should not be cared for’.

Tsitsi

Dr Tsitsi Chataika of the University of Zimbabwe presents on inclusivity and the right to education.

Andy Nowak

Andy Nowak of Queensmill School, London and volunteer with Disability Africa, shares effective ways of supporting autistic children and young people.

Pan-African Experiences of Autism: Transforming Rights into Reality – A Practical Conference

 

Pan-African Experiences of Autism Conference

Click on the link below for the full Conference Programme as a PDF

Pan-African Experiences of Autism Conference Leaflet

Background

There are very few studies on autism in the African context but it is clear that specialist autism support services are limited across the continent – and in some areas are non-existent. Just 53 publications were identified in a recent review of research into autism in Africa (Franz et al, March 2017), but findings suggest a substantial need for large-scale clinical, training, research and awareness-raising programmes to improve the lives of people who live with autism in Sub-Saharan Africa. The UN Secretary-General has urged the international community to focus on autism globally, to address stigma, lack of awareness and inadequate support structures.

Globally many autistic children and adults are living difficult lives, denied education, support and acceptance, and often prevented from participating in family and community life. In resource-poor settings in particular, the lack of opportunities for support and education, accompanied by the profound and isolating stigma that can accompany disability, can put individuals and families in intolerable and often dangerous situations.

Generating Support & Action for Change

To genuinely improve the everyday lives of people living with autism there is an urgent need for increased support for awareness-raising programmes and for sharing the latest developments in good practice, including in education, in research and in social care. As elsewhere, this complex process of social change necessarily involves multiple agencies – within the education sector, at NGO level, from within the community and at government policy level.

This is a practical conference aimed at developing working partnerships to transform rights into reality. The conference will bring together a selection of best practice and perspectives from African countries, with the aim of providing opportunities for individuals, organisations and others to share experiences, information and to plan genuine strategies for transformative action.

The event will look at what is working, how we can strengthen, support and widen best practice, what research needs should be prioritised, identifying resources and forming partnerships to build capacity in education, training, social care, awareness-raising, and to explore future networking possibilities.

The conference will be aimed firmly at action and at developing future collaborative partnerships – international, continental, regional and national – to contribute towards the enhancement of capacity.

If you are interested in attending the event please outline your interest in a sentence or two and email:

mike@disability-africa.org

There is no charge to attend the Conference.